5 Bold Predictions for Notre Dame vs. Arizona St.
Notre Dame's showdown with Arizona State at AT&T Stadium in Dallas Oct. 5 is perhaps the most intriguing matchup of Week 6.
A plethora of storylines surround this contest, including Notre Dame's 4-0 record in its Shamrock Series games, Arizona State's explosive offense and the first meeting between these two schools since the Irish defeated the Sun Devils, 48-17, in October 1999.
And the one intangible aspect fans and media personnel will overanalyze is Arizona State head coach Todd Graham's track record against Notre Dame.
His 2010 Tulsa squad upset the Irish at Notre Dame Stadium, while his 2011 Pittsburgh squad gave Notre Dame everything it could handle in an eventual 15-12 loss at Heinz Field.
Will his current Arizona State team spring another upset?
Arizona State RB Marion Grice Will Be a 100-Yard Rusher
Some may scoff at this prediction given Grice's last two rushing performances against Wisconsin and Stanford.
The 6'0", 204-pound running back was limited to 84 yards against the Badgers and just 50 against the Cardinal, but a 100-yard day is in the works for Grice when his Sun Devils meet Notre Dame in Dallas two weeks from now.
The reason behind the prediction is what both Wisconsin and Stanford possess that the Irish do not: a stable secondary.
Arizona State quarterback Taylor Kelly, who has passed for at least 300 yards in each of his team's first three games, will have his way with a vulnerable Notre Dame secondary, which will open up wide running lanes for Grice and fellow running back Deantre Lewis.
And should Grice eclipse the 100-yard mark, it would be the first time this season the Houston native has accomplished the feat.
Notre Dame's Rushing Woes Will Be Cured
The one troubling area that has added stagnation to Notre Dame's offense through four games has been the running game.
The Irish have been held to less than 100 rushing yards against Michigan, Purdue and Michigan State after finishing last season ranked in the upper half of the FBS in rushing offense.
But the perfect remedy for the running game's struggles seems to have arrived in the form of Arizona State's rushing defense, which currently ranks 78th nationally, allowing an average of 174 yards per game on the ground.
Both Stanford and Wisconsin rushed for at least 230 yards against the Sun Devils, setting up for what could be an eventful evening for the quartet of Notre Dame running backs listed on the depth chart: Cam McDaniel, George Atkinson III, Amir Carlisle and Tarean Folston.
Arizona State's Offense Will Expose the Notre Dame Defense
Remember what Michigan's offense did to Notre Dame's defense in Week 2?
The Wolverines amassed 460 total yards on their way to 41 points, the most the Irish defense has yielded through four games.
Yet that same Wolverine offense pales in comparison to an Arizona State offense that has been firing on all cylinders during a 2-1 start to its 2013 season.
The Sun Devils rank 42nd nationally in total offense (469.3), eighth in passing offense (361.3) and 34th in scoring offense (38.3), each of which ranks higher than the previously mentioned Michigan offense.
Let's gain some perspective.
While the Sun Devils were blanked in the first half last week against Stanford, they broke loose in the second half, amassing 28 points on their way to 417 total yards against an elite Cardinal defense.
Should Arizona State's offense have a similar outing against Notre Dame, the Irish could be in for a long evening.
Notre Dame WR DaVaris Daniels Will Shine
To date, Daniels has been Notre Dame's most productive receiver.
The Vernon Hills, Ill. native leads the team in receiving yards (305), touchdown receptions (four) and is one reception shy of tying for the team lead for total receptions with fellow receiver TJ Jones.
Each of those totals is likely to significantly increase following the matchup with Arizona State.
With a rushing attack fining its groove for the first time this season, the passing game will be opened up for quarterback Tommy Rees, who will find Daniels down the field for big gains.
Daniels' state line against Purdue—eight receptions for 167 yards and two touchdowns—could very well be replicated against the Sun Devils.
The Game Will Be a Thriller
During their run to last season's national championship game, the Irish often won low-scoring, grind-it-out types of games.
Head coach Brian Kelly and Co. have won to the same tune this season, with their 17-13 victory against Michigan State two weeks ago being a prime example.
But when the Irish find themselves involved in a shootout, a la the Michigan game, their fortunes are reversed.
With both offenses humming in this contest, a shootout is likely to transpire, which will make for must-watch television.
And as Notre Dame fans have become accustomed to, the final result of Saturday evening's game will likely be decided in the latter stages of the fourth quarter.